Ding-Dong! The actors’ strike is over and Hollywood can finally get back to work.
It was also the first weekend of the holiday moviegoing season and from here until the end of the year a series of important new releases will help the 2023 box office stay well ahead of 2022.
Let’s start by comparing the current weekend to the same one last year. On 11/11/2022, Disney/Marvel opened BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER with an impressive domestic gross of $181.3M. That superhero sequel went on to a successful $453.8M domestic and $859.2M worldwide.
This year Disney/Marvel kicked off the holiday season with THE MARVELS, another MCU film that was not nearly as well received with only $47M in domestic ticket sales. All films together sold $88.6M this weekend, compared to $210.8M on the same weekend last year. Despite this slow start, we remain upbeat and believe that the box office over the next eight weeks will come out ahead of 2022.
A $47M debut for THE MARVELS left no one satisfied. Of the 33 movies in the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE (MCU), this weekend’s opening frame was the lowest in history. Previously, THE INCREDIBLE HULK had held that honor with $55.4M on the weekend of June 13-15, 2008.
Just as concerning, THE MARVELS is a direct sequel to CAPTAIN MARVEL which earned a much higher total of $153.4M domestic in its opening from March 8-10, 2019. CAPTAIN produced $426.8M domestically and $1.1B worldwide.
After this dramatic fall, the potential for Carol Danvers (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) as the headliner in any future movie is very much in doubt. It also supports the widespread opinion that the era of the superhero movie has come and gone, especially after lackluster results earlier this year for Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA and DC’s THE FLASH.
The 32 prior MCU titles have grossed $11.7B domestically, more than twice the amount for the next closest movie franchise, STAR WARS, which has earned $5.1B domestically.
If you add in $2.7B earned by titles from the DC Extended Universe, the total for superhero movies from major studios comes up to $15B in the U.S. and Canada. These films have always been high-risk/high-reward propositions because of their steep production costs.
The now-concluded actors’ and writers’ strikes have forced studios to take every opportunity to reduce their costs. A typical superhero movie consumes $200M in production costs, with a similar amount spent on marketing. As a rule of thumb, such films would need to generate $500M in the worldwide box office to break even. These budgets will have to be reined in at a time when interest in the genre seems to be fading.
Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson return as Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) and Nick Fury. The plot centers on the unlikely trio of Danvers, Kamala Khan, and Monica Rambeau joining forces to save the universe. The twist is that every time they tap into their superpowers they wind up trading places with each other.
Critics are lukewarm with their 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas moviegoers are more appreciative with an 86% score. Despite a disappointing opening weekend, results going forward may be lifted by a well-chosen release date that places it on screen over the busy Thanksgiving holiday.
Universal and Blumhouse’s FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S took second place in its third weekend with a three-day gross of $9M. After riding high with an $80M opening on the weekend before Halloween and suffering a massive 76% drop to $19.4M in weekend number two, FREDDY’S wild ride stabilized with $9.0M and a respectable decline of 53%.
The 17-day total for a video game-inspired horror flick stands at $127.2M and we project that it will end up earning $150M domestically and $273M worldwide, a nice profit for a movie that cost only $20M to produce.
TAYLOR SWIFT: THE ERAS TOUR played in 2,848 North American theatres this weekend, and grossed $5.9M to take third place, a drop of 57% from last weekend. This encore on its fifth weekend is notable since theatres only signed up to play Taylor’s concert film for four weeks in order to secure the initial booking.
We project that it will continue to play widely through Thanksgiving and only come off-screen to make room for RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCE when it opens on December 1st.
Sofia Coppola’s PRISCILLA added 1,002 locations from last week’s opening and finished in fourth place with $4.8M, a slim decline of only 5% from last week. The more interesting fact is its steady performance at the 1,300 locations that played it last week, where this weekend’s box office declined by only 26%. The total gross so far for the Priscilla Pressley biopic is $12.7M.
In its fourth weekend, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON finished in fifth place by earning $4.6M and dropping 32%. Scorsese’s 3½ hour epic lost more than 400 locations this weekend and is at risk of disappearing from most theatres before Thanksgiving weekend. After 24 days, its total domestic gross is $59.9M, which is significantly lower than most have projected.
The two other films that had hoped to get into the top five this weekend were THE HOLDOVERS from Focus/Universal and JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM from Sony. Still in its rollout phase, the second weekend of THE HOLDOVERS finished in sixth place by bringing in $3.2M from 778 locations.
Its most encouraging statistic is the average gross per location, which is an impressive $4,113, second only to THE MARVELS’ $11,663. This comedy stars Paul Giamatti and was directed by Alexander Payne, the same actor-director team that produced SIDEWAYS (2004). It is in a prime position to benefit from the holiday moviegoing season, based on excellent scores on Rotten Tomatoes of 96% from critics and 92% from audiences.
JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM did not fare as well, with only $2.4M at slightly more than 2,000 theatres in its opening weekend. This is a live-action Christmas musical that retells the story of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Jesus, set to a soundtrack with Christmas standards and original pop tunes. Its backers had hoped that its religious story would lure at least some of the audience that turned out for Angel Studios’ faith-based titles earlier this year, but it was not meant to be.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 11/9
After 45 weeks, the year-to-date box office stands at 123% of the amount earned at this same point in 2022 and 84% of the total from 2019.